Disability no voting challenge for Sister Duchesne

Sister Duchesne Mulcahy, and her cat Alfie, at Margaret Wilson Complex. The partially-blind woman cast her vote in the ...

Sister Duchesne Mulcahy, and her cat Alfie, at Margaret Wilson Complex. The partially-blind woman cast her vote in the general election earlier this week using a dictation vote on the phone.

A partially-blind Timaru woman has not let a disability get in the way of her democratic right to vote.

Margaret Wilson resident Sister Duchesne Mulcahy has multiple sclerosis (MS), a progressive disease of the central nervous system, which has affected her vision.  

She cast her vote in the New Zealand general election by telephone dictation vote last week, and is encouraging others who can't get to the polling booth on September 23 to vote, to look at other options.

She received a CD explaining the voting option in the post from the Blind Foundation and describes the voting option as "wonderful".

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"I put the disc on and listened to what to do," she said.

"It was just so easy and I could listen and go through what I had to do and then ring the number and it was private."

Mulcahy was diagnosed with MS in 1997, realising her sight was failing when she struggled to see the funeral of Princess Diana on television.

"My eyesight hasn't got any better since then," she said.

A resident of the home for the past 14 years, in the past she has been given help to get to the voting booth. She felt the dictation vote was a good option for those who couldn't vote on the day.

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"I've voted many times," Mulcahy said.

"This is something I could do alone though and it was so confidential."

She said it was important that everyone exercised their right to vote and she wanted to let other blind people know there were other options too.

"I want to shout out about this system to everybody.

"It's good for people who can't get to the polling booth on the day and I encourage people to use this system as it's helped me."

Rangitata registrar of electors Gisela Craig said she was unsure of the number of people in the region who will cast their vote via a dictation vote in this year's general election.

However, she said there were several options for people who were unable to make the polling booth on the day.

"A returning officer visits rest homes and hospitals in the region during the advanced voting period before the election," Craig said.

For those who can't get to a booth on election day they could vote early (from September 11 to September 22), at any advance voting place.

People could also ask someone to collect their voting papers, she said.

Anyone who is enrolled to vote and is blind, partially blind or has another physical disability that prevents them from marking their ballot paper without assistance is eligible to vote by telephone dictation, she said.

CCS Disability Action South Canterbury service manager Julie Fosbender said clients were given information about voting, but the organisation was, in no way, allowed to influence a voters' choice.

Presbyterian Support South Canterbury marketing and fundraising manager Katerina Tiscenko said the organisation's rest homes usually enabled early voting for residents, with polling booths set up in each home.

"Wallingford Home had voting on Monday, Margaret Wilson Home is having their booth set up on September 19 and at The Croft, a booth will be set up on September 20," Tiscenko said.

"Most of our residents vote on site in this manner, but if there are others who need to be taken to a booth on Saturday September 23, we would also facilitate this."

 - The Timaru Herald


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